Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Inside the Heart and MInd of a CEO

Walker Group of Companies

Inside the Heart and Mind of a CEO

By Lynn M. Armstrong

L-R Greg Hazel, Katelyn Frecon, Jennifer Soos, Milt Walker, Allan Reich, Daryl Andrew, Ginny Scott

Good leaders create good teams, bring out the best in people and create sustainable futures. Milt Walker is such a CEO.  He is a people’s CEO who is creating a legacy organization that will be sustainable and responsive to the market as it evolves.

Milt Walker is the founder, President and CEO of the Walker Group of Companies, which includes Walker Projects Inc. and Century West Construction Group. This uniquely organized company includes two engineering divisions, a commercial construction division, a residential construction division and a renovation division. 

The Walker Group brings together more than 100 professionals, technologists, engineers, accountants, trades people, administrators, and sales professionals. Many are under the age of 30. 

His staff describes him as an engineer with a heart.

Milt’s vision is the result of 40 years of learning through economically challenging times of double digit interest rates and job scarcity, large scale projects such as Hill Tower 2, Crown Life, Regina Centre Crossing, and the proposed Winnipeg Arena to name a few.

“I began to see that there was more to construction than grade beams, piles and roofs and that a broader perspective was needed. Being the best structural engineer was not enough. Having the ability to lead people in the decision making process and manage the political and business environment wins at the end of the day. I knew that if we could do that well, the work would come. We combined project management and structural engineering to help us look at the job from the customer’s perspective.”

"Creating the right mix of people and personalities and establishing a culture of working together is what I set out to do." - Milt Walker 

“Engineers and the trades do not typically work under the same roof.  Creating the right mix of people and personalities and establishing a culture of working together is what I set out to do.” 

The quality of the project manager is the key, says Milt. “Sometimes the owner is tugging at the wheel of the project. The project manager must have the ability to keep the project on track. The people who can lead and manage change are the people who win in the end because that’s where we are going as an industry.”

“It is critical to manage multiple people in the process.  Seeing the issues before they become barriers and dealing with them in a timely and efficient manner keep projects on track. We see this in projects of all size and type.

If someone was not properly consulted and included in the process, inevitably the outcome will be unsatisfactory. If what the client wanted was a pancake house, and the result is a pizza stand, nobody is happy.”

“People make all the difference.  Having the right people at all levels of the company is the most important thing. Each person who works here is exactly the person we want. We are a young company.  Many of our staff is hired directly out of university and SIAST. 

Our management team is built to lead, mentor and teach. We have created a culture of working together as engineers, construction experts, and trades, with a strong professional and administrative team. We are very proud of that and I am very proud of each and every one of them.”

"Being a leader is the best job in the world to me.  There is nothing more satisfying than seeing someone grow both personally and professionally.  I am inspired every day by the bright lights of our team." - Milt Walker 

“Our ‘why’ is to build the future with innovation, passion and a superior customer experience.  Our ‘how’ is to be the best place to work, do the best projects, have the best people and be reasonably profitable.  Our bottom line is to be the best place to work.”

Meet the Management Team

Bruce Kaytor, Century West Renovations; Paul Gregory, Century West Construction; Amanda Martin, Century West Homes; and Jordan Walker, Century West Construction 

The Renovator’s Renovator

Century West Renovations: Bruce Kaytor

Bruce Kaytor
"I know what’s cooking. I know the subcontractors.  And because we have such a fully diversified team of construction professionals here, I can come back to the office and talk to anyone else here.  I have more support than I have ever had in my life.  There is no other place that can do this." - Bruce Kaytor 

Bruce had just left the home of a family whose roof just caved in. He was noticeably shaken by the ordeal, feeling empathy for this mother whose world literally came down on her.  The family was forced to move out of the house immediately.

“This is something that I never get used to.  Seeing someone devastated.  I do my best to give them the information they need to move ahead. I was able to say I can have an engineer at her home tomorrow morning.  Milt himself came to the house with Jenn to assess the situation.  The insurance forms are being filled out now."

Bruce is a landscape contractor with over 25 years experience as a renovator.  He leads the Century West Renovation division, which handles all types of jobs including insurance claims.

"Renovation customers love their homes, their neighborhoods and their back yards but they want change. I advise them to get a designer involved, get drawings and make choices about materials. Once I have a plan in place, we go to town, and we get it done."

"We take care of business here. Construction is full of follies, despite what you might see on HGTV.  The main thing is taking care of it.  There is never any hesitation to deal with a situation, no matter how unpleasant it can be.”

"Our commitment is to deliver. Once we start, we are going to finish.  We make it as easy as possible for the owner, and we get it done."

A Mandate to be the Very Best 

Century West Construction: Paul Gregory, Jordan Walker

Paul Gregory 
“We are realistic, honest and organized.   Our number one priority is understanding and delivering the construction process from the perspective of our client. We want to give them their dream".   - Paul Gregory   
Paul Gregory is a seasoned construction professional.  Jordon Walker is a former hockey player with a head for business.  Together, Paul and Jordan lead the Century West Construction division with a mandate to build the very best. 

Paul has been with Milt since the beginning after he "swam upstream" from Alberta in the mid 1990's where he was working. 

“Construction is a competitive business. It can be adversarial if the engineers and construction trades do not get along, or if the client wants and needs is not part of the planning process.  Especially if in the bidding process, the lowest price gets the deal and important things are left out.”  

Jordan Walker 
 “We believe in team approach to the construction process, which is giving the client value added engineering and construction and offering expertise versus taking what an architect or engineer designed and try to build it for a lower price.

"We work as a team here managing the process and the outcome from end to end, including the sale, creating the drawings, getting permits, building the project or renovating it and managing the issues and the budget to be sure we manage the customer, the time and money and the trades toward a successful and rewarding outcome", adds Jordan. 

“Milt’s mandate is to be the very best. And that’s why we come to work every day”. - Jordan Walker 

A Family that Builds Homes for Families

Century West Homes: Amanda Martin 

Amanda Martin 
“The key to owner happiness keeping the homeowner involved and informed and we have a youthful enthusiasm. Part of the magic is we are young, experienced, skilled and passionate about what we do.  We have had zero turnover in the last eight years.” - Amanda Martin 

Amanda has a dream job for home decorating enthusiasts.  Her office is filled with decorator magazines and family photos. Her job is making the dream of a home come true. 

"We’ve come a long way from the small house on Smith Street", remembers Amanda. 

Amanda leads a team of design technologists, a sales team, liaises with suppliers and works directly with designers to develop floor plans, research products and manage home projects.

“Our team works together. Our design technologists will do the plans and they are part of the project team.  Our sales people don’t just sell the house. They actively get involved.  That way, we never lose sight of the owner’s vision.”
The average age of the Century West Residential Construction division is under 30.  “People relate to us, trust us and feel at home here. That’s important to us.”

“Our homeowners value unique design and we want them to be ecstatic about their new home. They have a vision for a home that might be functional, whimsical or traditional. They tell us they will need a special spot for their piano or family pet.  They let us into their lives; our families connect. 

We are a family company who builds homes for families, and we feel proud to say, ‘we built that house’”.

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- Lynn Armstrong, Publisher